Abstract: The National Reparations Survey, begun in 2002 and scheduled to be completed in 2008, is intended to provide to a critical mass of African Americans the opportunity to speak directly to the issue of what an achieved reparations result should look like and be about. Armed with that body of information, those who will eventually be involved in negotiating the accomplishment of reparations for African Americans will be able to do so based on the strength of what the black community has said it wants and demands. This survey utilizes 21 Yes-No inquiries, and an open-ended section to allow for respondents to suggest their own remedies not covered in the 21 questions. The respondents are both randomized African Americans and participants at African American-centered meetings, conferences and events in American cities. It is anticipated that by 2008-2009, there will be approximately 50,000 self-identified African American respondents.
Summary Introduction: At the June, 2005 NCOBRA Annual Conference, the Media and Communications Commission discussed and approved a joint effort to disseminate a National Reparations Survey instrument at the then-upcoming Millions More Movement (MMM) gathering scheduled for October 15, 2005 in Washington, D.C. That survey had already been validated, distributed, collected and collated since 2002-2003 by a group of African American university students and the community-based organization, the Reparations Research and Advocacy Group (RRAG), both coordinated by Dr. David L. Horne out of Los Angeles, California and California State University, Northridge. Dr. Horne is a lifetime member of NCOBRA.
By June, 2005, the team working on the National Reparations Survey had received and analyzed 6,680 responses (6,500 of which were identified from African Americans). The ultimate goal of the surveyors was and is to receive up to or more than 50,000 responses.
The National Reparations Survey is intended to provide to a critical mass of African Americans the opportunity to speak directly to the issue of what an achieved reparations result should look like and be about. Armed with that body of information, those who will eventually be involved in negotiating the accomplishment of reparations for African Americans will be able to do so based on the strength of what the Black community has said it wants and demands.
The Media and Communications Commission of NCOBRA arranged to jointly financewith the RRAGthe printing of 10,000 reformatted surveys for in-your-hand dissemination at the MMM gathering. The plans agreed upon included utilizing at least twelve university students, plus MCC staffers, and volunteers from Los Angeles to pass the survey out and to collect as many of them immediately as the circumstances allowed. Unfortunately, with an 11th hour change of location for NCOBRAs kiosk at the MMM mandated by the Nation of Islam (NOI) leadership, and interruption of cell phone communication (thought to be from the massive federal surveillance of the affair), those well-laid plans could not be implemented. Trying to adjust to the new situation, the L.A. volunteers moved through as much of the crowd as they could from one vantage point, and the MCC staffers and students passed out as many surveys as they had on hand, and together approximately 6,500 of the newly printed surveys got disseminated.
As a result, an estimated 250 completed surveys were collected on the spot, and 1,400 surveys were subsequently sent to the mailing address provided on the back of the survey form.
The Media and Communications Commission members, the student volunteers, and the Los Angeles visitors are to be congratulated for making a positive way out of what seemed at the time to be no way to get the job done.
They well represented NCOBRAs tradition of staying on an issue until a viable way to complete the assigned task is found, in spite of the chaos and confusion surrounding that issue.
The results of the additional 1,650 responses collected from the MMM participants raised the total of survey participants to 8,330 (8,150 self-identified African Americans). Between November, 2005 and February 15, 2006, another 1,965 responses (1,900 A.A.) were received from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and South Carolina (Columbia and Charleston), making it a total of 10,295 responses (and 10,050 African American responses).
Between February, 2006 and December, 2007, an additional 1,850 surveys have been collected from mailed-in forms from 8 U.S. cities, and from participants at 2 regional conferences. Those responses have not yet been tabulated and integrated into the preliminary results, but that task should be completed by January 15, 2008. A major mailing of the survey will occur in February, 2008, during Black History Month, to all of the current African-centered departments and programs in U.S. colleges and universities, and to all known African American-centered community based organizations. Recipients will be asked to pass the survey out to their students, community residents, etc. By the end of 2008, the expectation is that the goal of 50,000 or more respondents should have been accomplished, and before the end of 2009, the final results should be available for public dissemination.
Preliminary Results I & II: The National Reparations Survey
Initial responses received, June 2002- June 2005
Total number: 6,680
African American self-identifiers: 6,500
Locations from which received responses: New York City, Kansas City, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Columbia.
Responses received post-June, 2005
(A) Additional responses from MMM participants, October, 2005 (A.A): 1,650
Additional locations from which responses received from MMM participants: Newark, Atlanta, New York, Charleston, Raleigh, Pasadena, Cleveland, Birmingham, Kent (Ohio), Yonkers, Buffalo, Toledo.
(B) Additional responses received, 2005-2006 by Mail: 1,965 (1,900 from self-identified A.A.)
Additional locations from which responses received: New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia
(C) Additional responses received from random participants, 2006-2007, and from two conferences, 2007: 1,850 (1,835 self-identified African Americans)
Additional locations from which responses received: Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; Carson, CA; Compton, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Washington, D.C.; Inglewood, CA; Columbus OH.
Total responses collected as of December 2007: 12,145.
Total responses collected from self-identified African American participants as of December 2007: 11,885
Total responses tabulated as of December 2007: 10,295
Total responses tabulated from self-identified African American participants as of December 2007: 10,050
Current (uninterpreted) survey results as of December 2007 (Based on counting 10,050 A.A. responses):
85% of African Americans surveyed believe they are owed reparations in some form from the U.S. and it is fair to pursue reparations.
79% of African Americans surveyed believe they have a clear enough idea of what reparations mean in the U.S.. (This is particularly the case when a phrase containing 40 acres and a mule is mentioned).
75% of African Americans surveyed believe they can make a convincing argument about reparations.
84% of African Americans surveyed believe the achievement of reparations will provide more respect for being black in America.
80% of African Americans surveyed believe that current white Americans, even though they didnt own slaves, continue to be unjustly enriched from the unpaid labor of 18th and 19th century slaves.
85% of African Americans surveyed believe that the achievement of reparations will help heal the racial divide in this country, while 75% believe that achieving reparations will make things worse for African Americans.
79% of African Americans surveyed believe the U.S. government should pay some form of reparations, and 85% believe American corporations should be sued for reparations.
74% of African Americans surveyed believe that receiving money alone is not enough as a reparations solution, and that a reparations package should be negotiated.
***All collected surveys are currently housed at the California African American Political and Economic Institute (CAAPEI) at California State University, Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, California 92407. For more information, call CAAPEI at (310) 243-2175. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Reparations is more than a money issue: its about respect and future
By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Staff Writer
The issue at the core of reparations is really quite simple, says David Horne, co-chair of the Reparations Platform Coalition in Los Angeles, and an associate professor in the Pan African Studies Department at Cal State University Northridge.
When you work, youre supposed to be paid . . . Slaves in America. . . were never paid. . . that created unjust enrichment for the white community, and that unjust enrichment is the foundation of white privilege in American society, explained Horne, who added that despite that core issue, the reparation movement is about much more than African Americans getting paid.
The movement is about three things: Justice. Its about respect, and its about land. Thats the common denominator, explained Horne, who also noted that reparations is both an international and national movement. In Kenya, for example, the Mau Mau are seeking redress. In Namibia, the Hereo were basically slaughtered by the Germans and had their land taken away. They are now suing the Germans and demanding compensation be provided for what happened to them. They took their land, labor, and their lives.
Horne points out that there are also reparation movements in South Africa, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, and Barbados to name a few.
Reparations are also an external and internal issue. Its about a change of value and respect for being black in this country. You treat people badly, when you dont respect them, added Horne. If there is one common denominator about the black existence in America and in other parts of the world, it is the disrespect for being black. Thats why you have things like racial profiling.
And that disrespect comes from within the community and outside.
Clearly the government owes black people. . . but there are things we have done to each other that we need to correct; that we messed up on. Reparations is a way to correct that is to make that adjustment so that black folks can get back to the high level of respect and value. Reparations is more than what they owe us, its what we owe ourselves, Horne added.
Laying the foundation for reparations is a long-term, multi-pronged effort that Horne said involves a political, legal, business, and educational approach. The political push centers around House Resolution 40, which was first introduced by Congressman John Conyers, (D-NY) in 1989, and he has re-introduced it every year since then. And using his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers was able to hold Congressional hearings on the legislation last December for the first time ever.
H.R.40 is a study bill to look at the feasibility of the federal government paying reparations to African Americans, the same way the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 did with Japanese Americans.
Horne said this national political thrust is also being bolstered by efforts in cities and counties. In Los Angeles, the effort is focused on trying to get legislation passed in the city council to establish a Slavery Historical Commission so we can study and put together a grand narrative of African Americans historical contributions to the development of Southern California.
In the legal arena, Horne said every case has been lost on one of three grounds sovereign immunity (meaning you cannot sue the United States unless they give you permission); standing; and statute of limitations.
The CSUN professor said that in order to impact the legal cases, the political environment must be much more favorable, which goes back to H.R.40.
From the business standpoint, there have been a number of lawsuits filed against corporations that may have profited from slavery or actually owned slaves. At the local level, Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman of Chicago has become a leader in this regard by pushing through the city council an ordinance that requires corporations who want to do business with the Windy City to fill out an affidavit stating they did not make a profit off of slavery.
At least 10 other cities around the nation, including Los Angeles, have followed suit, and this opened the door to prompt corporations like Wachovia Bank, Aetna, and Chase Bank to re-examine their own histories.
The educational front is a crucial part of the battle, said Horne, because it involves helping people inside the community, as well as those outside, understand what reparations is and why its needed.
And there is still much educating that needs to be done, contends Horne, because not even the majority of African Americans agree that reparations is needed.
Only about half of the Congressional Black Congress members have supported reparations. Most of the sponsors Conyers has been able to get are white congresspeople, Horne noted.
The black church has also been extremely reticent to come to the table, and Horne said that without the church, the movement will find it difficult to succeed.
When Chip Murray was still head pastor at FAME, we had two major conferences about getting ministers, pastors, and church folks to discuss the issue of how to get the black church involved. They went very, very well. But we have not yet tried to do that with the new pastor. . . . There has been no successful black movement in American society without the church. We need to get the church.
There have been more white churches that have come forth and said they feel guilty about participating in slavery, continued Horne.
Education must also involve the schools, said Horne, who noted that efforts are ongoing to get reparations included in the curriculum of colleges, universities, and high schools.
Rutgers University is one of the institutions of higher learning that has incorporated the subject into the curriculum.
Horne agrees that retraining of African American young people to understand their history and what reparations means is also a key part of the educational effort.
Most people understand that the reparation fight is not about you and I. Most people involved know that its for the future, and thats why so much effort must be put into the educational campaign. Getting young people involved in what is being done for them, is really, really important. Otherwise when you do give it (reparations) to them, theyll give it right back. What we have to do is get them involved. Thats why we are trying to get some rap artists to write some reparations songs that have a beat, and get youth into something that is more than Souljah Boy cranking.
The reparation movement is a chess game that will eventually have an end, contends Horne. When that end occurs, we have to be well prepared, well organized, and weve got to know how to win. We have to have a workable strategy, and that is what we are trying to do.
Contrary to what many might think, the push for reparations for African Americans is not a new movement.
According to associate history professor David Horne, the push for repayment can be traced back to 1815, when Paul Cuffe, a black man who owned a shipping line, paid for the transportation of Africans back to the continent.
David Walker, the most fiery black abolitionist ever, talked about reparations even during slavery, said Horne. He said it must end, and there must be justiceland and some kind of independence provided for the former slaves.
Horne pointed out that these individual efforts did not blossom into a full-fledged movement until Callie House, a Jim Crow-era political activist, called for slave pensions in the 1890s. This was the first real solidification of the reparations movement.
Houses efforts were stymied by the government, who suspiciously jailed him for mail fraud.
This was followed by a lull in the fight, that Horne said has been characteristic of the movement until the 1990s.
Others who flew the banner for reparations included Marcus Garvey in the early 1900s, and The Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad in the 1950s.
He used to have as part of the Nation of Islam paper that we want land; we want sovereignty, Horne said.
The move got another big start with Queen Mother Moore in the 1960s. She demanded that we get back our land and real independence, as opposed to having jobs, being able to vote, but not really being able to be self-sufficient.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X also talked about the need for reparations.
Horne said the impetus died again during the 1980s, but was revived once the Civil Liberties Act for Japanese Americans was signed in 1988. This legislation sparked Congressman Conyers, with the help of some black lawyers including Johnny Cochran, and the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, to draft H.R.40.
But perhaps one of the most critical contemporary boosts came during 1999-2000 from Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, who that year published The Debt.
Because of Randalls involvement and going on television and pushing it (reparations) and getting TransAfrica to push it, that legitimized the quest for reparations (to) the black middle class. It was at that point, 1999-2000, that reparations actually got pulled into the mainstream. In the 2000 presidential races, it was put in the Democratic National Convention, and it got put into the Democratic platform. And in a speech in 2002-03, Joseph Lowery (co-founder with King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) said that reparations was the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement.
Retribution for past injustices
By Gregg Reese
The legacy of slavery casts a long shadow across the national consciousness, affecting some more than others.
Consider the DeWolf family of Rhode Island, who have been called the most successful slave-trading family in American history, having dominated the nations slave trade for 50 years. At one point they owned 47 ships and transported at least 10,000 Africans into New World slavery. In addition to the five (coffee and sugar) plantations they owned in Cuba, the DeWolfs opened a bank, an insurance company, and a rum distillery, and by 1812, the DeWolfs owned more ships than the U.S. Navy.
Some of their present-day descendents made their way into middle age before being made aware of this dubious heritage. One of them, Thomas DeWolf has written a brutally honest memoir titled Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History (published by Beacon Press, and available at the Los Angles Librarys main branch), while his cousin Katrina Browne made a documentary feature film, Traces of the Trade, which was an entry in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. That said, let us remember that the vast majority of the Caucasian citizenry of the country are descended from people who had no direct ties to the slave trade, and may feel unjustly penalized by the resources of a tax reserve they contribute to being used to address past offenses they were not part of.
The concept of reparations, or compensation, for past offenses is not limited to the grievances of former victims of the triangle trade (in which molasses, sugar, tobacco, and rum were transported from the New World to Europe where they were exchanged for cloth, copper, firearms, and so on, which was shipped to West Africa, and bartered for slaves earmarked for the New World in the final phase of the cycle known as the infamous Middle Passage).
As far as modern historical precedences go, it bears remembering that dissention surrounded the issue of German reparations to Israel after World War II. Many within the government of that fledgling country (including later Prime Minister Menachem Begin) argued that accepting payment was tantamount to forgiving the Nazis for war crimes. Even after payment was initiated in the 1950s (to the tune of billions of dollars), claims to reopen the reparation agreement were broached as recently as 2007, raising the question of whether any compensation will be adequate. Ergo, in the case of compensation for the inhumanity of the slave trade, there is an open-ended question about how much punitive damages will ever be enough.
Closer to home, the sufferings of Native Americans (better known as Indians), while not nearly as well publicized as their African American counterparts, have been mentioned in connection with possible future reimbursement, as have the families of Japanese Americans interned during World War II, who thus far have been reimbursed $20,000 (for each surviving internee) for their incarceration and the forfeiture of their property.
Returning to the global arena, the recent international lawsuits by Korean women pressed into service as comfort women by the Japanese Army during World War II bear consideration, as well as a possible suit by the Chinese government against the Japanese for atrocities committed during the same time period.
Presently, our current presidential election adds another intriguing facet for consideration in the midst of all the accusations and counter-accusations being exchanged. Does the ascension of Barack Obama through the hallowed ivy-covered walls of Columbia, on through to the editorial helm of Harvard Law Review and membership in the U.S. Senate, on to a legitimate shot at the Presidency, mean that henceforth blacks do not need further handouts or reparations?
As might be expected there are numerous advocates pro and con, but not always neatly divided between black and white. African American Juan Williams, the Emmy Award-winning writer and senior correspondent for NPR, covered this topic in a 2001 article for GQ Magazine titled Get a check? No thanks, in which he argued that many of the recipients of possible reparations would soon be as bad off or worse, evidenced by the long litany of poor people made even more destitute after winning state-sponsored lotteries and then frittering away their prize money. Awarding reparations will also undoubtedly foster resentment among Caucasians and other Americans, as well as cheapening gains made by blacks in much the same way that affirmative action has, and ultimately hindering future race relations.